Illinois is home to some 1,081 fire stations, all of which hire skilled firefighters, fire investigators, paramedics, EMTs, and other first responders. As of May 2013, nearly 17,000 firefighters and 320 fire inspectors and investigators protected the state from loss and destruction due to fires. Those interested in the field have numerous educational options and career opportunities in the state.
Like most other careers, earnings for fire science professionals can vary greatly, depending on location, education and training, and certifications. Take a look at annual salaries for entry, median and advanced level fire service occupations in Illinois:
|Illinois Fire Service Careers
|Fire Inspectors and Investigators||$33,640||$61,470||$93,060|
|Fire Service Supervisors||$30,810||$48,910||$66,360|
While bravery is one thing first responders need, it’s not the only thing that will help them succeed. They also need education. A number of colleges and universities offer this type of training in the state, and students can choose from a variety of certificates or associate degrees. For example, Danville Area Community College offers fire science curriculum to provide students with the academic background and basic training necessary for a career in fire fighting.
Students at Elgin Community College can also earn a two-year associate’s degree or a number of certificates. The school’s Fire Science & Safety program prepares future firefighters to aid Illinois’ growing population in matters of fire, safety, and homeland security. Students can earn EMS, fire officer, fire science, or fire science and safety vocational certificates.
Most students want to explore all their options before choosing the perfect school for them. Luckily, Illinois has plenty of fire science colleges from which they can choose.
|DEGREE LEVEL||STATE||SCHOOL NAME||PROGRAM NAME|
|Associate||Illinois||City Colleges of Chicago-Harold Washington College||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Associate||Illinois||College of DuPage||Fire Prevention and Safety Technology / Technician|
|Associate||Illinois||College of Lake County||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Associate||Illinois||Danville Area Community College||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Associate||Illinois||Elgin Community College||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Associate||Illinois||Harper College||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Associate||Illinois||Illinois Central College||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Associate||Illinois||John Wood Community College||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Associate||Illinois||Joliet Junior College||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
|Associate||Illinois||Lake Land College||Fire Science / Fire-fighting|
I would advise anyone interested in the fire service to first be sure that this career is for you. Try being a part-time or paid on call firefighter before jumping in with both feet. Then, obtain the greatest amount of formal education and technical training possible. This field requires the desire to be a life long learner if you are really interested in being the best you can be.
I would advise contacting your local community college to see if they have a fire science program and then take advantage of everything that you can. In St. Charles, you need to have both your Basic Operations Firefighter and your Paramedic License before you can become a member. Once you are on the job, consider a four-year program to continue your formal education if you are interested in promotion or continue with other courses to maintain your technical competencies.
Northern Illinois has a very high density of fire departments that have either an ISO Class 1 or 2 rating. Additionally, there is also a better than average number of departments that have achieved accredited status through the Center for Public Safety Excellence. I think that all shows that the fire service is taken seriously here and the expectations for new candidates will be very high.
College of DuPage started in 1967 in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Its more than 31,000 students enjoy a variety of academic programs, including fire science.
Program Name: Fire Science and Emergency Medical Services
Program Description: This program is designed both for students just starting out and for already-experienced students who may have jobs in the field. Students start off with basic classes such as introduction to Fire Science, Basic Operations Firefighter and Fire Prevention 1. Those classes help students learn more about fire protection including the history, safety, and careers available in the fire science field. Advanced courses in fire science include Trauma Assessment, Vehicle and Machinery Operations, and Emergency Medical Responder.
Those who want to become a fire officer can take fire officer classes. Upon completion of these courses students are approved for certification. However, these classes are only open to current fire service personnel, and a permit from the fire science coordinator is needed to register.
To find out more about the two-year degree options and certificate programs, visit the College of DuPage’s Fire Science page: https://www.cod.edu/programs/fire/
With multiple campuses in seven counties in Illinois, Lewis & Clark Community College has numerous options for students seeking higher education. According to its website, the college has seen enrollment growth every year for 17 years.
Program Name: Fire Science
Program Description: This program is designed for working firefighters, so classes are offered in a variety of locations, including some fire departments. When it comes to training, the college has a three-story, 30-acre training facility for hands-on learning.
Students interested in an associate’s degree will take basic courses such as Public Speaking and Human Biology in addition to fire science-specific courses such as Technical Rescue Awareness and Fire Protection Systems. In addition to an associate’s degree, Lewis & Clark Community College offers numerous certificates, which can be used to help with a potential promotion or career opportunities, or simply for extra knowledge of certain areas. Certificates include Firefighter-advanced, Fire Prevention Specialist, Fire Apparatus Operator, and Roadway Rescue Specialist.
More information about this program can be found at: http://www.lc.edu/program/firescience
While it’s true that Illinois students have many options for fire science programs, sometimes it isn’t possible to attend classes on campus. In Illinois, especially, the long winter months might mean too much snow to venture out. However, hands-on training is also important for firefighters. As a result, some colleges offer the best of both worlds.
John Wood Community College, for example, offers some fire science classes online and some in person. Hands-on classes include Confined Space Specialist, Skills in Fire Protection, and Hazardous Materials Operations. Online classes are designed to let students work at their own pace. End-of-course exams are approved by the state fire marshal as state exams for certification. Other online programs, such as Fire Service Management at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, are for those who already have an associate’s degree and require less hands-on training.